Using light to disinfect the germs on your mobile device

Oct 30, 2017

We may complain about technical bugs in our cell phones, but what about health bugs on the surface of phones? A researcher at the University at Buffalo is taking existing technology and rebuilding it to a small device that uses light to kill those bugs.

UB Professor Edward Furlani has a very wide-ranging resume. He is a professor of Electrical Engineering as well as Chemical and Biological Engineering. That is why he has been researching the very bad things living on the outside of cell phones and other small electronic devices and applying technology.

"Did you know your mobile device has 6x the germs of a toilet seat?" says the homepage of CleanSlate UV. "30 seconds for a cleaner facility."

Furlani is working with CleanSlate UV's sanitizing technology and Grantwood Technologies out of Rochester, using an efficient LED light inside a special case for cleaning. Furlani says the current devices are already in use in larger versions.

"It's already being placed in environments like hospitals and food service, where these kind of issues are more important," he says. "There's a device already on the market that disinfects germs and microbes on your phone using ultra-violet light, instead of, say, washing them."

Furlani says washing electronic devices with water or a germicide is a very bad idea.

"You can't wash a cell phone and, secondly, the disinfection instead of being some laborious process, this is a very simple process," he says. "You take the phone, place it inside a device, close the door on the device and illuminate it with ultraviolet radiation, which kills DNA at that level. It disrupts it so that it really makes all these germs and that inactive. So this process can be done within 30 seconds."

Furlani expects the process to be available within 12-18 months. He also expects both the LED lights and the cleaning boxes to be made in this area, hiring local people.

"One could say it would be valuable in all environments, in the house and so forth," Furlani says. "But it would be most valuable or most important in specialized environments where health concerns are an issue."